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Das, Krishnabhabini

Das, Krishnabhabini (c 1862-1919) an early feminist activist and writer, was born in a remote village in Murshidabad. She was married to Devendranath Das, who went to England in 1876 to compete in the Indian Civil Service. In the ICS examination, he was placed seventeenth and missed the coveted job narrowly, as only sixteen candidates were recruited that year. Disappointed, he went to Cambridge and did a degree in Mathematics. He returned to Kolkata in 1882, but six months later he went back to London, accompanied by his wife.

Krishnabhabini had early acquired literacy at her parents' home. Unlike the other traditional Bengali women who hated the very idea of travelling abroad, she had a strong desire to visit England. She had a critical mind and an extraordinary desire to see foreign society and culture.

In England, Krishnabhabini Das was so impressed by the British culture and people, particularly by status of women in the British society, that she started writing a book called England-e-ek Babga Mahila (A Bengali woman in England). Published in 1885, the book was full of praise for English society, especially English women who played a significant role both in the family and society, and, as a contrast, was very critical about the Bengali society. In order to avoid social hazards of writing a book by a woman, she did not put her name in the book as its author. She gave details of English women's education and employment; and the freedom that they enjoyed. More importantly, she also introduced the movement for women's rights to her readers in order to inspire them to follow their path. She also wrote about the greatness of democracy in England.

After she returned to Kolkata towards the end of 1889, she continued publishing articles and working for female education and emancipation. Her articles published in Bharati, Sadhana, Prabasi and other periodicals indicate her progressive ideas, the foremost being the thought of women's education and economic independence. Krishnabhabini was just not a writer, but was also a social worker and established a home for destitute widows, and worked for spreading female education. She died in 1919. [Ghulam Murshid]